Scores of representatives of Myanmar’s ethnic tribes gathered in the country’s capital for peace talks with the government aimed at ending decades of separatist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives.
The delegates, dressed in traditional garb entered the conference hall in Naypyidaw on Wednesday for the five-day talks called by the new government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Although her title is state counsellor, she is seen as the country’s real leader.
“All our people around the country want peace. So I do believe we will be successful in getting it at the conference,” said Khun Than Myint, the facilitator of the meeting, which is titled Union Peace Conference – 21st-Century Panglong.
The title is is a reference to the Panglong Agreement brokered in 1947 by Aung San Suu Kyi’s late father, independence hero General Aung San, in a town called Panglong.
The 1947 deal granted ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain together.
Aung San was assassinated the following year and the deal fell apart. Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military, governments of failing to honour the 1947 pact, just before Myanmar gained independence from Britain the next year.